The volume of today’s press coverage and commentary surrounding the announcement that Ben Buckley is to be the new Football Federation Australia chief executive is both a measure of the impact soccer has made in this country in recent years and the magnitude of the job awaiting the former AFL Number 2.

The public view of soccer’s new boss has been nothing short of glowing, with AFL chief Andrew Demetriou describing Buckley as “an outstanding executive“.

That sentiment is replicated privately, with one executive who has worked closely at various times with Buckley in recent years suggesting that he is easily the stand-out sports administrator outside of the chief executives of Australia’s major sports.

“He is a very sharp operator,” he said. “He’s just across every aspect of sports administration – from doing the big deals, like TV, to sports branding, the politics and governance of sport, the clubs and grassroots issues; he’s navigated through all of those things. When you look at his career, this sort of role is logically the next step.”

The appointment also raises questions about the make-up of the administrative team Buckley will choose to surround himself with, with the memory that his predecessor, John O’Neill, enlisted the aid of trusted lieutenants from his days with the ARU. Many in the industry will be watching Buckely’s appointments with interest.

Meanwhile, the AFL will be keen to see if Buckley takes some of its best talent from this country’s biggest game. But at the same time, you’d reckon the jockeying for Buckley’s vacant position will be heating up before he’s even cleared his desk.

It’s a fair bet that Buckley’s and Demetriou’s mobile phones will be running hot over the next few weeks.

Peter Fray

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